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Fox follows Star to Shah

Studio pacts with Bollywood filmmaker

Fox Star Studios, the newly created joint venture between two News Corp. divisions, has struck its first production deal.

The company, created last month by 20th Century Fox and Asian satcaster Star, has signed a multipicture deal with Indian producer Vipul Amrutlal Shah.

“This is a co-production deal,” Fox Star Studios India CEO Vijay Singh told Daily Variety. “Normally, Indian studios walk in when a film is finished and even then may not have seen the movie. We want a traditional (Hollywood studio) model, a production and development deal with some of the usual disciplines such as script development.”

The deal requires Fox Star Studios to fully finance the pics and gives it outright ownership of the intellectual property. Significantly, it gives filmmakers a chance to share in the upside.

“Fox Star Studios is very clear that it wants to make films with an Indian sensibility and for the Indian market,” Shah said. “But even if it takes 10 years, sooner or later everyone is going to have to get used to working this way. So I might as well do it now,” he added.

“It is our plan to replicate the studio model in distribution too. We have created a national distribution network, because we want to control the distribution all the way down to dealing with the multiplexes and single-screen theaters. And we are now putting all our Hollywood product through us too,” Singh said.

Distributors in India traditionally sell off local rights in big cities and regions.

“This means we are a single stop shop for producers to come to covering everything except music rights, and will access the 20th Century Fox international network overseas,” Singh added.

Shah’s recent films include “Namastey London” and “Singh is Kinng,” which was released in August.

He is on location in the U.K. as producer and helmer of “London Dreams,” one of three other pics that will be offered to the studio under the first-look deal.

Fox Star Studios was set up as a pan-Asian initiative in the region covered by Star’s footprint and, over time, is expected to put together three production and distribution slates — one each in India, Greater China and Southeast Asia (Daily Variety, Sept. 9). The Indian operation is the most advanced by far.